By Bendik Sorensen
Assistant Arts and Entertainment Editor
What do you think of when you hear the term heavy metal? Do you think of thrash coming out of the Bay Area in the ‘80s, the New York hardcore scene, or maybe grunge from Seattle? Certainly not Black Metal from Jerusalem. Melechesh has been pumping out dark, characteristic music inspired by their home culture since the early ‘90s. Their latest release, Enki, marks their sixth studio album.
Where the world of metal can sound static, Enki is a breath of fresh air. Taking the name of an ancient Sumerian god, the album is full of contrasts, ranging from full blast beats to the poetic, fragile sound of a sitar. Melechesh does not set their music in traditional major/minor scales, pentatonic, or even the more colorful scales found in jazz music. Their basis is the double harmonic scales, to you music majors, and Arabian scale, to everyone else, found in folk music from their home region. It’s a unique sound, not found in many other metal bands.
The contrasts are obvious. A groovy single track, “Lost Tribes,” incorporates the western groove metal, giving California power ensembles such as Machine Head and Slayer a run for their money. A legend is also appearing on the track. Metal icon Max Cavalera, not unfamiliar with incorporating his home culture into metal, makes an appearance with his distinctive voice and groovy riffs. Cavalera came into fame with his Brazil groove metal in the ‘80s and ‘90s. “Lost Tribes” is one end of the spectrum – a six-minute thrash song. On the other end, there is the eight-minute melodic instrumental, “Doorways to Irkala.”
The track itself could very well be found in a movie or TV show – It’s atmospheric, trance inducing, and downright beautiful. That’s what makes this album great. The sounds found on “Doorways to Irkala” are making their mark all over the album. It’s exotic, but not out there. It’s unique, but not weird. It’s heavy, it’s thrashy, it’s full of dialogues between instruments, and it’s bringing a new culture and sound into the metal world, with a well-engineered album.
From now on, you can think of black metal from Jerusalem alongside hardcore from the streets of NYC or true Norwegian black metal. “Enki” puts Melechesh on the map. The album was released on Feb. 27.